Is exercising together the right decision for you?(Getty Images/iStockphoto)
If you’re involving your partner in your weight loss journey, it’s time to pause and rethink it. It could boost the number of kilos you lose, or it could lead put your relationship in jeopardy.
A study conducted by the Taylor & Francis Group revealed that there are various kinds of ‘relational environments’ which determines which way your weight loss conversation will swing. Online survey response of 389 individuals who were trying to shed the excess weight were analysed. Interpersonal communication expert Rene Dailey identified different types of ‘relational environments’.
The first is ‘synchronised’, in which both partners function as a team and work towards their shared goal of weight loss. On the other extreme is ‘lone battlers’, wherein the individual is less likely to breach the topic of weight loss with their partner.
The study classed those somewhere in between as either ‘contentious cooperatives’, when approaching weight loss sometimes causes conflict, or ‘autonomous’, where individuals receive only sporadic encouragement from their partner, without undue interference.
The three most common weight loss strategies couples use are encouragement (giving praise and reassurance), influence (pushing their partner to do better and make healthier choices), and coercion (making the other feel guilty by withdrawing affection).
Dailey commented, “Relational partners co-create an environment in which people lose weight. Partner behaviours that support the weight loss can be viewed differently depending on the environment. For example, a person who wants to focus on a diet but their partner focuses on exercise might see the partner’s suggestion of going for a walk as intrusive and unhelpful. By contrast, a person who feels they and their partner are on the same page about how to lose weight could welcome the suggestion”.
Earlier this year, a University of Connecticut study found that when one half of a couple works towards losing the flab, the other half will also end up being lighter by a few kilos — even if they aren’t actively trying. Similarly, if one partner struggles to lose weight, their partner also found it difficult to do so.
Many celebrity couples also famously work out together. Zaheer Khan and Sagarika Ghatgesweated it out as a unit in the run up to their wedding. Kareena Kapoor and Saif Ali Khan too have been spotted exiting the gym together.
Couples looking to work out together or set goals together, be careful though. Unless your approaches align with your relational environment, you are risking alienation and unnecessary tension. The study discovered that ‘synchronised’ partners, who framed weight loss as a shared goal, were far more receptive to all three strategies, including coercion. The negative emotions associated with this strategy, such as guilt, were more likely to be interpreted positively in this environment as a concern for their partner’s health, rather than as manipulative or controlling. This could lead to positive effects for both weight loss and the couple’s relationship.
“These findings suggest that couples might benefit from negotiating the best relational environment and desired support strategies from their partners, to facilitate their progress more effectively. Ultimately, this would help them to better balance their weight loss goals with the maintenance of their relationship”, concluded Dailey. The study appears in the journal Health Communication.